Animator, Obi Arisukwu, Adds Humor to Our Everyday Struggles
As I was scrolling through Twitter, I noticed a comic strip that had gone viral. I read it and belted out the biggest cackle. It was of a man and a woman (possibly his significant other) running into what seems like an old friend. The “old friend” daps up the guy and they briefly catch up with each other. As soon as the guy leaves, the woman asks “who is that guy?”, the man replies “I have no idea”. The comic illustrates that awkward moment almost everyone has experienced, but, it was illustrated in a humorous way. I became an instant fan and had followed the artist ever since. The artist of this comic is Obi Arisukwu, age 32. Obi is a Nigerian-American illustration artist hailing all the way from Houston. He perfectly captures the awkward, frustrating, random or sometimes controversial moments in his weekly comic strips.
Every now and again, I revisit his Twitter or Instagram page and check out his other work. He is also amazingly talented at turning celebrities into animated characters. He even did a photo of actor and rapper Will Smith and his rapper son, Jaden Smith, titled“ICON”. It was so well done, that it got the attention of Will Smith himself. Will reposted the photo on his Instagram page and credited Obi. Ever since then, Obi has been overwhelmed with “congrats” texts from friends and family as well as an increase in social media presence, “I was brushing my teeth when I found out, then I spat everything out” he said “[Will] has always been an inspiration of mine...to have him repost my work, I found him as a mentor that I never met who saw my talent.”
The youngest of his siblings, and although they all have a creative side to them, Obi was the only one who took his craft a bit more seriously. Obi felt that he loved to draw, but was getting tired of corporate America. He battled between the idea of keeping his job until he’s “ready” and just taking that leap of faith. Later, Obi realized that you can never be fully ready. “Things happen that are out of your control, you can never be too prepared for it, so you just gotta go for it”. With the support of his friends-like concert photographer Greg Noir- Obi decided to make that leap, commit to his craft full time, and leave his corporate job, but with the support of his parents, Obi had a safety net in case he fell. “[My parents] are the reason why I’m still afloat right now” he said “they see the work that I’m putting and they see the results. Them seeing the results, they’re like ‘okay we want to help you out as much as possible so that we can keep you focused on that and I’m incredibly fortunate ”. Their support helped Obi soar.
As Jay-Z would put it, “I do it for the culture...show ‘em how to move in a room full of vultures”. Obi taps into his Nigerian culture to keep him motivated; he adopts the habits of his parents’ hustle, coupled with the desire to make them proud. He also has a network of businessmen (and women) to help keep him savvy within the industry. “I'm the creative when it comes to the art side, but when it comes to business everybody else is great. I’m at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to business.” Obi turns to his Line Brother/ best friend about every week to brainstorm techniques, brand strategies and review his artwork. Although, there was one piece that Obi wanted to release, despite the risk of losing traction.
One of Obi’s favorite, and most controversial, comic is the bit about Taylor Swift
The great disappointment that Kanye West has shown with his recent antics (i.e.g. his belief that slavery was a choice) and support of Donald Trump, Obi wanted to capture what most of us are feeling, humorously. “When Taylor spoke about the voting and voting for Democrats, that’s when I was like ‘Okay, I’ll start to accept opening up to her.’ And to me, that comic strip, was me exaggerating the fact that people are like ‘who would’ve thought that Kanye will be the person supporting Trump and slavery and Taylor would be the one to tell us to free us all”. Even though some didn’t take too keenly to his comic, Obi’s goal was to not only bring light to race issues within America, but to also recognize our allies, “This is a person that’s on the other side, siding with us and we need as much help as possible, no matter what the race is”. Most importantly, Obi wants to focus on humanizing people of color in contrast to what the media has been doing. Beyond that, he wants to just generally show people living their everyday lives.
Currently, Obi has a lot of major plans on his plate- some that he can't disclose at the moment- but he’s recently been basking in the ambiance of creative solidarity at #CultureCon. #CultureCon is an annual conference hosted by The Creative Collective NYC to connect creatives with each other and inspire positive change. Obi was amongst many other notable guest speakers during the event. But, his hopes when all the madness calms down, is to be able to leisurely read (shout out to him for suggesting Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death!), continue to work on his craft, working on projects, and wind down watching some of his favorite shows like Black-ish, Grown-ish, Game of Thrones or any show involving superheroes. But, overall, Obi says he’s been feeling grateful for the connections and support he’s made through his career thus far.